It is believed that Tortoise (kurma) avatar is of Lord Vishnu as per the puranic legends.

However, one of the users of the site has quoted an interesting passage from vedas citing that Lord Kurma is actually incarnation of Lord

Shatapatha brahmana ( is mentioning Prajpati's avatara "Kurma" i.e. Tortoise.

5 And as to its being called 'kūrma' (tortoise);Prajāpati, having assumed that form, created living beings. Now what he created, he made; and inasmuch as he made (kar), he is (called) 'kūrma;' and 'kūrma' being (the same as) 'kaśyapa' (a tortoise), therefore all creatures are said to be descended from Kaśyapa.

So Lord Brahma indeed is the Kurma avatara?

If both stories contradict then as per the tradition shouldn’t we accept the Vedic reference?

  • Is there a similar story of the churning of the ocean also mentioned in the Vedas? Are the two kurmas the same? Dec 9, 2017 at 0:03
  • 2
    I think the two karmas described in Shatapatha Brahmana and Puranas are different... Lord Vishnu took Kurma avatara during Samudra Manthana...
    – Tezz
    Dec 9, 2017 at 2:47
  • As time is cyclic, both the avatars might be from different different Kalpa...It is same as in One Kalpa Lord Brahma gave a boon to Dhruva and in another Lord Vishnu hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/22528/… or as mentioned by Tezz, both the avatars are from same Kalpa but at different time one in the beginning and another during Samudra Manthana....
    – YDS
    Dec 9, 2017 at 4:54
  • Many Puranas say Vishnu after changing form to Brahma took forms of Matsya, Kurma and Varaha at beginning of creation in different kalpas.
    – The Destroyer
    Dec 9, 2017 at 17:30

3 Answers 3


Shatapatha Brahmana is in accordance with Puranas. Both texts mention Brahma takes form of Matsya, Kurma and Varaha at time of creation.

For example, Padma Purana and Vishnu Purana say, at beginning of creation, Brahma takes forms like Kurma, Varaha and Matsya to rescue earth from water. Similar statements can also be found in other Puranas.

Actually, this "Brahma" is nothing but one aspect or form of Vishnu or Supreme Brahman as per Padma Purana and Vishnu Purana. So, Supreme Brahman (Vishnu) --> Brahma --> Kurma or Varaha or Matsya.

Chapter 3, SrstiKhanda of Padma Purana says (translated by Dr. N.A Deshpande)

Bhlsma said

Tell me, O great, sage, how this Brahma, called Narayana, created all the beings at the beginning of the Kalpa.

Pulastya spoke :

25b-29. Brahma, the lord, beginningless, cause of everything, who had slept at night, at the end of the bygone Kalpa, got up, with increased vitality, saw the world void; being in the water and noticing the earth plunged in the flood of water, and after a thought desiring to take it and comprehending up the form of Visnu in order to carry off" the earth he entered other forms like those of Matsya, Kurma and Varaha.

  1. Having resorted to the form of Vedic Sacrifice, the Creator, of a firm mind, the soul of all and the highest soul, remained (firm) for the stability of the world.

Chapter 4, Book 1 of Vishnu Purana says (translated by HH Wilson)

अतीतकल्पावसाने निशासुप्तोत्थितः प्रभुः।
सत्त्वोद्रिक्तस्तथा ब्रह्मा शून्यं लोकमवैक्षत॥ ३॥
नारायणः परोऽचिन्त्यः परेषामपि स प्रभुः।
ब्रह्मस्वरूषी भगवाननादिः सर्वसम्भवः॥४॥
इमं चोदाहरन्त्यत्र शलोकं नारायणं प्रति।
ब्रह्मस्वरूपिणं देवं जगतः प्रभवाप्ययम्॥५॥

At the close of the past (or Padma) Kalpa. the divine Brahma endowed with the quality of goodness, awoke from his night of sleep, and beheld the universe void. He, the supreme Narayana, the incomprehensible, the sovereign of creatures, invested with the form of Brahma, the god without beginning, the creator of all things; of whom. with respect to his name Narayana, the god who has the form of Brahma, the imperishable origin of the world, this verse is repeated.

आपो नारा इति प्रोक्ता आपो वै नरसूनवः।
अयनं तस्य ताः पूर्वं तेन नारायणः स्मृतः॥६॥
तोयान्तः स महीं ज्ञात्वा जगत्येकार्णवे प्रभुः।
अनुमानात् तदुद्धारं कर्तुकामः प्रजापतिः॥७॥
अकरोत्स तनूमन्यां कल्पादिषु यथा पुरा।
मत्स्यकूर्मादिकां तद्वद् वाराहं वपुरास्थितः॥८॥

"The waters are called Nara, because they were the offspring of Nara (the supreme spirit); and as in them his first (Ayana) progress (in the character of Brahma) took place, he is thence named Narayana the whose place of moving was the waters)." He, the lord, concluding that within the waters lay the earth, and being desirous to raise it up, created another form for that purpose; and as in preceding Kalpas he had assumed the shape of a fish or a tortoise, so in this he took the figure of a boar.


Most of the puranic stories will never match with the vedic like in vedic times maruts were son of rudra and in puranic age they are sons of sage kashyapa.

Well there is not written lord bramha it is written prajapati and sage kashyapa is a prajapti almost all gods, demons,birds,snakes are his descendends so thats why it is said prajapati taken form of a kurma and it is written kūrma' being (the same as) 'kaśyapa' (a tortoise), therefore all creatures are said to be descended from Kaśyapa.

source:— https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashyapa

and of course in shatpath brahmana it is is not only prajapti who is kurma.

  1. Now this tortoise is the same as yonder sun: it is yonder sun he thus lays down (on the altar). He lays it down in front with the head towards the back (west): he thus places yonder sun in the east looking thitherwards (or moving westward); and hence yonder sun is placed in the east looking thitherwards. On the right (south) of the Ashâ dhâ (he places it), for the tortoise (kûrma, masc.) is a male, and the Ashâ dh â a female, and the male lies on the right side of the female;--at a cubit's distance 1 , for at a cubit's distance the male lies by the female. That Ashâ dhâ is the consecrated queen (mahishî) of all the bricks, hence being on the right (south) side of her, it (the tortoise) is on the right side of all the bricks.

  2. And, again, why he puts down a tortoise;--the tortoise (kûrma) is the breath, for the breath makes (kar) all these creatures: it is breath he thus puts into him (Agni). He puts it down in front looking towards the back: he thus puts in the breath in front tending towards the back; whence the breath is taken in from the front backwards. [He puts it down so as to be] turned towards the (gold) man: he thus puts breath into the Sacrificer. South of the Ashâdh â (he puts it), for the tortoise is breath, and the Ashâ dhâ speech; and the breath (prâ n a, masc.) is the male, the mate, of speech (vâ k , fem.). — http://sacred-texts.com/hin/sbr/sbe41/sbe4165.htm

however this kurma is said not to be a tortoise but —

He then puts down a (living) tortoise;-- the tortoise means life- sap: it is life-sap (blood) he thus bestows on (Agni).


so, Kurma avtar of lord vishnu is the kurma avtar of samudra manthana there is no doubt anout it.

  • 1
    Ur claim that 'Vedic stories will never match with Pauranic stories' doesn't seem true..I don't think there is a contradiction at all..as most of the stories are not in chronological order and it might be possible that stories r from different different Kalpa/Manvantara/Mhayuga/Yuga and hence may vary but still all r TRUE..how come the stories written by same Vedvyasa (who devides Vedas) in Mahabharata and in few major Puranas are untrue...it may be possible that their English translation is not correct.. Puranas too mention many Prajapatis like Daksha, Kardam, Angira and Kratu bcz it's a post
    – YDS
    Dec 9, 2017 at 13:57
  • 1
    @YDS I didn't say that they will not match and what example i given is also true in my answer of marutgans see how the thing varies by purans to purans and uttermost vedas are ultimate truth they are not written they are listened so if i say that some stories doesn't match (i didn't say not happend) so what is wrong and in my answer shatpath brahman itself is saying that— He then puts down a (living) tortoise;--the tortoise means life- sap: it is life-sap (blood) he thus bestows on (Agni). so it has been addresed to many gods like you can see. Dec 9, 2017 at 14:14
  • I m not saying anything about ur quotes in Ur answer...but can u pls read last 2 lines of question "So Lord Brahma indeed is the Kurma avatara? If both stories contradict then as per the tradition shouldn’t we accept the Vedic reference?" Don't u think u haven't mentioned in Ur answer that Kurma is Vishnu's incarnation too..
    – YDS
    Dec 9, 2017 at 15:36
  • Oh now i get you would be thinking that i am saying bramha taken kurma avtar. No, i am saying that that "kurma" is life-sap and is used for many gods one of them is prajapati kashyap and the kurma avtara is a diffrent thing an form which lord vishnu taken during samudra manthana. What can be more than kurma puran is itself a puran devoted to kurma avtar of lord vishnu. Dec 9, 2017 at 17:17
  • In all your quotes no mention of vishnu but in conclusion you say definitely its vishnu !! Man !! Seriously ? Dec 9, 2017 at 20:22

Is Sri Kurma an avatar of Prajapati?

Yes, it's already described in your question itself and in the answer which you have linked.


The word praja means subject and the word pati means master. It's a post or title. There are many Prajapatis identified in scriptures, Lord Bhrahma and Daksha are most famous. Additionally, Padma Purana mention

Lord Mahadeva replied-- Lord Brahma had created numerous Prajapatis like Bhrigu, Marichi, Atri, Daksha, Kardam, Pulastya, Pulaha, Angira and Kratu.

So, now let's assume that Prajapati mentioned in the Shatapatha Brahmana ( is Lord Bhrahma. So,

Lord Brahma indeed is the Kurma avatara?


Note: This doesn't mean that Kurma is not Lord Vishnu's incarnation. Please see below explanation.

If both stories contradict then as per the tradition shouldn’t we accept the Vedic reference?

Yes but only if both the stories are from the same incident which happened in the same Kalpa/Manvantara/Mahayuga/Yuga.

Let's see few more confusions:

A. Who is Daksha?

Answer 1: Daksha is Lord Bhrahma's son who became Prajapati.

Answer 2: In Dhruva's line there was a king named Prachinavarhi. Prachinavarhi had ten sons, known as the Prachetas. Daksha was son of Prachetas and became Prajapati.

Now both the answers are true as both are from different timelines.

The sages interrupted Romaharshana. They said, "Sage, we are completely confused. We have heard that Daksha was born from Lord Brahma's toe. And yet you have told us that Daksha was the son of the Prachetas. How is this possible?"

Romaharshana replied, "There is no reason for confusion. Many Dakshas have been born to rule over the world. One was born from Brahma's toe, yet another was the son of the Prachetas." - Creation chapter of Bhrahma Purana.

B. What is the story of Godess Lakshmi's birth?

Answer 1: Godess Lakshmi emerged during Samudra Manthana and got married to Lord Vishnu.

Answer 2: Godess Lakshmi was daughter of Bhrigu and Khyati who later got married to Lord Vishnu.

Here too both answers are true.

Godess Lakshmi was actually daughter of Bhrigu and Khyati. Indra showed disrespect to her (or sage Durvasa in some stories), she made her abode in the abysmal depth of the sea and later emerged during Samudra Manthan.

MAITREYA.--It is commonly said that the goddess Lakshmi was born from the sea of milk, when it was churned for ambrosia (i.e. during Samudra Manthana); how then can you say that she was the daughter of Bhrigu and Khyáti.

PARÁŚARA.-- read the reply from Vishnu Purana.

C. Who brought river Ganga on Earth?

Answers may be Goutama, Vashishta and Bhagiratha. This is explained here.

D. Lord Ganesha's birth story?

Read the two different stories from Shiva Purana and Varaha Purana. Here too both the stories are true as both are from different timelines.

Similarly, it's heard that Dhruva is a great devotee of Lord Vishnu but one story mention him as a devotee of Lord Bhrahma. Is Dhruva portrayed as a devotee of Prajapati Brahma in any texts? Here too both stories are true as both are from different timelines.

Conclusion: Kurma in one Kalpa/Manvantara may be Prajapati's incarnation and in some other Kalpa/Manvantara Lord Vishnu's incarnation. There is no reason to doubt on the fact that Kurma is Lord Vishnu's incarnation (during Samudra Manthana - in 6th Manvantara). At the same time, Kurma being Prajapati's incarnation (in the beginning of creation - in 1st Manvantara) is also TRUE.

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